A new High Court ruling could have an impact on the law surrounding inheritance between couples who cohabit.
In a ruling handed down in March, the High Court ruled in favour of Joan Thompson, who it said should be entitled to a distribution of Wynford Hodge’s estate, even though he had left his whole estate to tenants and friends.
Ms Thompson pursued a claim against her late partner of 42 years, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
His Honour Judge Jarman QC said Ms Thompson should be given reasonable provision for her maintenance. She was granted one of Mr Hodge’s properties worth £225,000 – the court heard the property had been purchased with a view to the couple retiring to it. She was also granted £160,000 for her future maintenance and care, and £28,845 to renovate the property.
Ms Thompson’s solicitor said the judgment paved the way for cohabitees, who currently have no statutory rights to their partner’s estate, to secure financial provision “that reflects their contribution to the relationship”.
Talking to the Law Gazette, solicitor Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu, of law firm Hugh James, said the key drivers for the outcome were the length of the couple’s relationship; Ms Thompson’s financial dependency on Hodge; and to prevent her having to ask the intended beneficiaries for permission to renovate the property or raise capital against it.
What is clear from this ruling is that, even where there is a will, there are may be an opportunity to contest the wishes of the deceased person. This is termed ‘contentious probate’.
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